Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Acid Wash, Soul Slinger, Last Dance + More!

Well, since my last post, I've taken 2 trips to Bishop and ticked several "projects". The first to go down was Last Dance (V9). This problem is in the Happies right next to Rave and Weekender. The beta I used for this is not how the guide book describes. All the moves were static for me and most people seem to use a left sidepull and dyno for the jug. I always try to avoid dynos or big moves if I can. Here's the beta:

Next up is Buttermilk Stem Sit Start (V4). The guidebook claims that this problem is "rarely onsighted". I would say that's probably quite accurate. For the longest time, I could not figure out how to do the sit start to this problem and I've never seen anyone do it either! Well, finally someone posted a video of it online and I got inspired to try it again. The move is awkward, but after a few attempts, I got the hang of it and sent it within a few goes.

I've worked on Soul Slinger (V9) for a few trips now, and by worked, I mean made like 3 attempts and complained that it tore my skin up and gave up. Well, this time, it only took 2 goes. The first go, I got to the last gaston crimp (for the first time) and fell. The 2nd go, I sent.

Acid Wash (V10) was the last project I sent. I've probably played on it for a handful of trips, but only seriously worked on it during the past 2 trips after I actually did all the moves. Not sure if it's an "easy 10" as some people would say, but it's definitely easier if you're tall. I don't think I made it look easy either.

After Acid Wash, I wanted to try something new, so we went to the Get Carter boulder and tried Get Carter (V7). This problem probably doesn't get as much traffic as its neighbor Seven Spanish Angels (V6), but it's pretty good in my opinion. At first, it felt really hard and I couldn't even do it on the first day, but I came back the next day and sent it within a few goes. The crux is definitely the first few moves and the key beta is a left drop knee and a right heel hook. I chickened out of the direct top out and traversed right to the easy top out. I hate slabs!

A bunch of us also played on Professional Widow (V4). I decided to be a jerk and climb it in my sandals. Actually, I had no intention on sending it in my sandals as I didn't think I could do it. I was just trying to warm up and it just happened. This problem is probably one of my favorites in Bishop and possibly the best V4 I've ever done.
Me on Professional Widow (V4).
Well, I think I've had my Bishop fix for a while now. I decided that I'm going to take a good break from this area. So I probably won't go back until it warms up, maybe Feb or March. I have Red Rocks and Joshua Tree coming up during the holidays though!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Atari, Redrum, & Mr. Happy

My Bishop season started earlier this week with a trip to Bridgeport for court to contest a traffic ticket I received back in January on the US-395. Initially, I contested it by written declaration and lost, so I elected to have a Trial De Novo and contest it in person. As there were only two cases being heard that day, the officer quickly identified me and spoke to me before the trial. He said to me, "It's your lucky day, I tried looking for my copy of the ticket, but couldn't find it, and I don't remember anything about it." He came empty handed and simply asked the judge to dismiss the case. Yay! That went better than expected, and so off to Bishop I went.

Unfortunately, I was battling a minor cold while in Bishop, so I didn't climb as much as I wanted to. Much of my time (1.5 days) was spent at the Happies playing around on problems that I previously could not do. To my surprise, Atari (V6), Redrum (V7), and Mr. Happy (V5) went down.

I first tried Atari 3.5 years ago and thought it to be too hard, scary, and impossible for someone my height. The start of the problem was way too wide for my wingspan. I have to stack 2 pads to even get on the wall and even then, it was still a struggle. Thus, I never returned to the problem. That was until I found out that one of my friends who is 5'6" and +2 completed it! So I went back and surprisingly sent it 2nd go. It actually felt quite easy once you commit to the moves. Anyway, here's the video:

Redrum also went down 2nd go and Mr. Happy 1st go. I've worked on both of these problems in the past and have found them to be hard for the grade.

The remainder of the trip was quite unproductive as my cold got slightly worse. I went home early and took advantage of Tioga Pass being open. Oh well, I'll be back next week!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ibex & Joe's Valley, Utah

I took a trip to Utah for the first time in late October and stayed there until early November. The objective was to do some bouldering in Ibex, Joe's Valley, and Triassic. We spent 1 day at Ibex and about 7 days at Joe's Valley. We never made it to Triassic, mostly because there was so much to do at Joe's and also because our trip was cut short due to the snow and cold weather. Towards the end of the trip, the daily high was just above freezing and the lows were in the teens.
Welcome to Utah.
Here's some beta and some of my experiences in these climbing areas:

We left for Ibex from the Bay Area around 7AM (PDT) on Oct. 24th and arrived there around 7PM (MDT). It took about 11 hours to get there plus another hour from the time zone change. Ibex is literally in the middle of no where right off the 50. So make sure you have enough food/water to survive and fill up gas either in Delta (if coming from the east) or at the Border Inn (if coming from the west). 
Me staying warm in Ibex.
Ibex is indeed an eerie and unique climbing destination. The rock is quartzite and is quite frictionless. The holds may look rather positive and they may feel good when you first touch it, but it's a different story when you try to pull and climb on it. Not to say that it's a bad thing, but it's definitely different. The whole scene there is different. It reminded me of Death Valley in a way. We only saw 2 other cars the entire time we were there and did not encounter any other climbers.
The Lake Bed in Ibex.
The Ibex Crags is probably the closest and most popular bouldering area there. You will have to drive across a dried lake bed to access this area. A high clearance vehicle and 4WD may be helpful if the lake bed is wet (try to avoid the wet areas). Finding your way out of the lake bed will be difficult, so try to remember where you came from. You can also camp anywhere on the lake bed, but it may be very windy. We camped at Topus Mountain for our first night where there is a little more shelter and then on the lake bed for our second night. And by camp, I mean sleep in my car, so the wind didn't really affect us.

As it was pretty windy and cold, we weren't able to do very much climbing. I only climbed on the Topus boulder and Red Monster boulder, which had some really good problems on it. 25 Foot Ronald, Topus Arete, and Ju were the only problems I managed to do and are all worth doing in my opinion.
Jacquelyn on 25 Food Ronald (V0) on the Topus Boulder.
Jacquelyn on Topus Arete (V5).
Way Cows (left) and Red Monster (right) Boulders.
After getting fed up with the wind and cold, we finally left Ibex on Wednesday morning, Oct. 26th, and headed to Joe's Valley. We went from cold to colder, but at least Joe's wasn't windy, which made all the difference!

Joe's Valley
I'm not sure exactly how long it took to get from Ibex to Joe's Valley, but I think it was around 3-4 hours. There are many small towns driving through the 50, which slows you down quite a bit, so I'm not sure if this would be the preferred approach from the Bay Area. Taking the 80 through Salt Lake City may be much faster as the speed limit is 75 most of the way. It only took us 13 hours of driving time to get home via the 80 minus 1 hour due to the time change. 

So to make things easier, I'll just separate my experiences into essential sections.

The Right Fork, Left Fork, and New Joe's are the three main bouldering areas in Joe's Valley. There is no camping at New Joe's, but you can pretty much camp anywhere along the Right and Left Forks. The camping "spots" are all mostly just dirt pullouts by the bouldering areas. Some are better than others and the further up the road you drive, the more spots you will find. We camped on the Right Fork by the UMWA Boulders. There is a porta potty at both the Left and Right fork.
Joe's Valley Area Overview.
Food, Water, Fuel, etc
For the most part, we brought with us plenty of food, so we didn't need to buy anything. Although if you do need anything, the Food Ranch in Orangeville, about 8 miles from the Forks, will have everything you need plus more, except maybe good beer. It is a fairly large grocery store and prices are quite reasonable if not cheap compared to the Bay Area. They have a deli, which serves pretty good chicken strips as well as donuts to fuel you in the mornings. There is even an upstairs dining area, which we used to hang out with other climbers. 

Gas was $3.54 for regular (vs. ~$3.80 in the Bay Area). As for drinking water, it seemed like buying soda (99 cents for 1.5L) was cheaper than buying water there, but there is a spigot by the propane refill tank you can use to refill your water jugs. Bathrooms are by the left side of the building.

I was told there was another grocery store in Castledale (right next to Orangeville) with cheaper prices, but less accommodating to climbers. The liquor store is also there if you wanted something with more than 3.5% alcohol in it. Otherwise, Price (30 miles away) will have everything else you may want, but I didn't go there, so can't tell you much about it.

You can take showers and even go for a swim at the Emery County Aquatic Center in Castledale for $4. Just pay attention to their hours and schedule. They open at noon on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. The facility looks newly built and is quite nice.

Utah Bouldering (aka White Book) by Chris Grijalva, Noah Bigwood, Dave Pegg. Published in 2003.
A Bouldering Guide to Utah (aka Black Book) by Jeff Baldwin, Mike Beck, and Marc Russo. Published in 2003.
An Insightful Guide to Joe's Valley Bouldering (aka New Book) by Issac Caldiero. Published in 2011.

In my opinion, the white book is better than the black book, but neither are very good by themselves. Together, they are pretty good. If you only wanted one book, the new book is probably the way to go. Although I wouldn't take some of the descriptions for the problems too seriously in the new book. For instance, it may tell you to sit start this problem, but it is literally impossible to sit start it unless you stack 4 pads beneath you. Another example is with the problem Low Tide along the Left Fork, it will tell you to climb left, but really, you're supposed to climb right.

That being said. I think the black book is out of print, so it will be hard to find. The white book and new book can be ordered online. The new book is also sold at the Food Ranch for $24.95. 

The climbing here is just amazing. The sandstone is so well featured, it was almost like gym climbing. There is even an article titled "Seven Reasons Why Joe's Valley is Better than Hueco" in Climbing Magazine, issue 250, August 2006. I never read the article or been to Heuco, but Joe's is certainly a premier climbing destination. If you have the time, I would definitely try to spend a few weeks here.
Me on Kill By Numbers (V5) along the Left Fork in Joe's Valley.
As I mentioned earlier, the three main areas for bouldering are the Right Fork, Left Fork, and New Joe's. Most of the bouldering areas along the Forks will require you to drive from one area to another, but the approaches are normally only a few minutes long. New Joe's requires you to park in one spot and then hike to all the different areas. It also has the largest concentration of problems within the same area. The approach to New Joe's as stated in the old guidebooks is now closed and the new approach is listed in the new guidebook, which is to drive ~ 4.1 miles north on 57 and park at the large pullout on the right. Hike on the obvious trail for about 10 minutes passing an old rusted car, following many cairns, and then you will eventually arrive at the Bad Genes boulder.
This was a typical approach on the Left Fork in Joe's Valley.
I think I spent about an equal amount of time at each area. New Joe's is better for the cold days as it gets the sun all day. The Left and Right forks are both in a canyon and doesn't get the sun for very long. 

As for problems to get on, Mountain Project has a pretty good list of classics to start off with. Most of the problems that I did were all good in my opinion. My favorites are probably The Angler, They Call Him Jordan, Planet of the Apes, Chips, and G2-07
Jacquelyn on The Angler (V2) along the Left Fork in Joe's Valley.
Me on I'd Rather Be Climbing Her (V6) in New Joe's.
Me on They Call Him Jordan (V7/V8) along the Left Fork in Joe's Valley.
Rest Days
Ha, good luck with this one! It was so hard for me (and everyone else that I met there) to take a rest day at Joe's Valley. The featured sandstone here was so friendly on my skin, I was able to climb for 7 days straight! That was until I got on Scary Monsters (V6) and decided to go all out on that sharp and painful right hand crimp. Unfortunately I fell at the top out and wasn't able to do the problem, but I probably could have kept climbing every day if I never got on this problem.

It will surely be hard to want to take a rest day here. The climbing is so good and due to the fact that there is absolutely nothing else you can do to entertain yourself with, you will likely want to keep climbing even if you can't! Now that I think of it, I should have forced myself to rest, as it became apparent towards the end that the longer I stayed there, the weaker I became.
Some Other Useful Information
GPS Coordinates for the boulderings areas can be found here:

WiFi: The library on Main Street in Orangeville has WiFi.

Cell Service: There is excellent cell service in Orangeville with 3G connections for both AT&T and Verizon (not sure about other providers). I was able to get a (weak) signal right at the junction to the Left & Right Forks with my Verizon phone. Otherwise, there is no service at the Forks. There is a good signal at New Joe's.

And finally, here's some bouldering videos I took in Utah:

Joe's Valley

Sunday, November 6, 2011

King Cobra

King Cobra is an amazing dihedral boulder problem in Camp 4 right by the Yosemite Falls trailhead. It is a tall and beautiful line that resembles the head of a King Cobra snake.
Jose in the dihedral of King Cobra.
Ed on the opening moves to get into the dihedral of King Cobra.
In my opinion, there wasn't really a crux on the problem. Every move was equally hard from the start. If you're flexible, good at dihedrals, and have decent shoulders, this problem may feel easy for a V8. If not, this problem may feel impossible. My advice is, if it feels like your shoulders are going to pop out, you're probably doing it right. After not touching this problem for nearly 3 years, I went back and sent it within 5 attempts. Here's the video:

I also made a surprise ascent of Ament Arete (V6), which is right next to the Yosemite Falls trail sign and down the hill from King Cobra. For the longest time, I could not do the sit start to this problem. Perhaps it was because I never tried it with cold temps. Not sure if this was the easiest way to do the start, but here it is:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Midnight Lightning + More!

Fall has arrived and the temperatures are starting to drop. That means it's bouldering season! Or are we going to skip Fall again this year and go straight from Summer to Winter?
Recent storm that dumped over a foot of snow in the Sierras.
So I took a couple trips to Yosemite Valley earlier this month to do some bouldering. Much of my time was spent in Camp 4 projecting Midnight Lightning.
Me sticking the lightning bolt hold on Midnight Lightning.
Midnight Lightning is probably the most famous boulder problem in the world. It sits in the heart of Camp 4 on the northeast face of the Columbia Boulder. You can easily recognize it by the distinct lightning bolt symbol drawn out with climbing chalk. This is where it all began. The first ascent was made in 1978 by Ron Kauk and the first female ascent was in 1998 by Lynn Hill.
Midnight Lightning on the Columbia Boulder in Camp 4.
Closer view of the lightning bolt. Also notice the black lightning bolt feature towards the top right corner.
I've been told that this was what prompted naming the problem Midnight Lightning.
Although I've also heard that it was the Lightning Bolt Hold that led to its name.
I started working on Midnight Lightning in 04/2009 and have since had about 4-5 short sessions on it throughout the years. During these short sessions, I have gotten no further than when I first started trying it, which is throwing for the lightning bolt hold and never sticking it. It wasn't until earlier this month when I actually stuck the lightning bolt hold. Unfortunately, after sticking it, I forgot the beta and didn't know what to do for the match. Afterwards, I became too tired to try it again and decided to come back later when I'm fresh and ready.

I came back a week later and surprisingly sent it first-go. It was quite amazing as after sticking the lightning bolt and making the match, I was in completely new territory. I didn't know what the next holds were going to feel like and I've never done the moves either. After constantly hearing that the notorious mantel move is the crux for many climbers, it was both intimating and exciting to finally be in that position. I knew exactly what to do for the mantel as I've watched the move done many times before, but it was still awkward to put myself in that position for the first time. I struggled briefly, but finally got myself in the correct position and it was easy after that. Here's the video:

The crux for me on this problem was definitely sticking the lightning bolt. It will likely be easier to make this move if you're tall, but then the mantel move may be harder if you're tall. I'm about 5' 7" and I seem to fit into the position needed to make the mantel move fairly easily. Longer legs and arms may just make it even more awkward.

In addition to Midnight Lightning, I managed to make a surprise ascent of Cocaine Corner (V5) while warming up. I also first tried this problem in 04/2009 and it felt impossible, scary, and did I mention impossible? I never thought I would be able to do this problem, but I guess attempting it in cooler temps during the morning and having plenty of crash pads makes all the difference. Anyway, here I am on it. Notice that I was about to fall off towards the top, but somehow managed to stay on and finish:

I also sent The Diamond Left (V6) in Candyland, but couldn't get the V8 variation due to the last few moves being extremely difficult in the heat. Oh well, next time!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cathedral Peak + Eichorn's Pinnacle, September 22, 2011

Cathedral Peak's Southeast Buttress is one of the most popular climbs in Tuolumne Meadows. It offers over 700 feet (5-6 pitches) of easy to moderate climbing and has been considered one of the best 5.6 alpine rock climbs anywhere. Thus, there will almost certainly be a crowd. So start early (or late if you're fast).
Cathedral Peak and Eichorn's Pinnacle
Our day started around 6:30AM at the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead and we made it to the base of the climb by 8:00AM. The approach is fairly straight-forward and easy to follow. You start by hiking south uphill for about 10 minutes on the John Muir Trail and then there will be an obvious sandy trail on the left normally blocked by logs. You follow this well-traveled trail for about 3 miles all the way to Cathedral Peak. Many cairns and boulders will mark the way and it should take about 1.5 hours.
Hike south for ~10min uphill on the JMT. Take this trail blocked by logs on the left to get to Cathedral Peak.
When we arrived at the base, there were about 8 other climbers who were still gearing up. We wasted no time and quickly geared up and started climbing the Southeast Buttress. I didn't want to wait in line, so I just ran up the first pitch without looking at my topo or really thinking about a line to follow. We definitely didn't climb the easiest route up, but it sure turned out to be fun. I think it was mostly sustained 5.7 climbing and we avoided all the 3rd/4th class terrain.
This is what the Southeast Buttress looks like from the base.
Our route took us directly to the chimney as if we climbed up in a straight line. It took just under 2 hours to make it here and climbing the chimney turned out to be a lot of fun. Our day-packs made it a little complicated to negotiate the chimney, but we figured it out. We started with our packs on our back until we got ourselves situated inside and then moved our packs to the front of our chest.
Jacquelyn following the pitch right before the chimney.
Me inside the chimney.
The view from inside the chimney.
After the chimney, it took maybe another hour to make the summit. We were there by 11:30AM and scouted our next destination: Eichorn's Pinnacle.
Almost at the summit.
Me at the summit. Eichorn's Pinnacle on the bottom right.
From Cathedral Peak, Eichorn's Pinnacle looks just amazing. It practically calls to you and if you're not low on time, you will want to climb it. It may also be one of the most photographed climbs in Tuolumne, so make sure to bring your camera for this awesome photo opportunity. You'll have to figure out on your own how to take the photo though.
Me on top of Eichorn's Pinnacle
The traverse to the base of Eichorn's North Face is only about 150 yards away and is mostly 3rd/4th class scrambling. The North Face route (5.4) starts on some exposed ledges and has 1 piton on the ledge and 3 more really close together later on. The climb then becomes awkward with a wide crack system going left and the rope drag is terrible! You might find that fighting the rope drag will be more difficult than the climbing itself. Although there is an optional belay you can set up to avoid this. It took us about 2 hours from the summit of Cathedral Peak to climb up Eichorn and rappel back down to the notch. This includes the amount of time needed to take our photos.
Signing the summit register on top of Eichorn's Pinnacle.
Unlike Cathedral Peak, Eichorn's Pinnacle has a summit register box. I became immediately saddened after looking through and signing the summit register. More than a year ago, Christina Chan, a Stanford student and climber, summited Eichorn's Pinnacle and fell while descending unroped. Her friends appeared to have made the summit register into a memorial for her. Although I have never met Chris, it almost felt like I have lost someone close to me that I've known for years. She was a fellow climber who shared the same passion for climbing as I do.
Eichorn's Pinnacle Summit Register.
Climb on, Chris...
From the notch, it took about 1 hour to descend the 3rd class slabs and reach the John Muir Trail by Cathedral Lakes and then another hour to get back to the car. We were on the road by 3:45PM, making it a 9.25 hour day car-to-car.

Matthes Crest, September 21, 2011

Matthes Crest is an amazing 1-mile long knife-edge ridge just south of Tuolumne Meadows. It is commonly completed as a traverse from South to North. However, most climbers only complete the southern two-thirds of it and rappel off the North Summit. The traverse is rated 5.7, but 90% of the ridge line is really class 3. The class 5 sections are at the beginning south end, right before the North Summit, and after the North Summit (if you choose to complete the entire traverse).
Matthes Crest as viewed from the west side.
We started this day at the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead around 7:00AM. The hike begins on the John Muir Trail heading south towards Cathedral Lakes. You will hike uphill for about 10 minutes before you make a left turn on an obvious sandy trail that is normally blocked by logs. You follow this trail for ~45 minutes or 1.5 miles until the trail wants to you turn right and head toward Cathedral Peak. Instead of going right, make a left and cross Budd Creek over logs. Continue following this trail until you arrive at Budd Lake where the trail will eventually disappear. You will then hike cross-country south-west around Echo Peaks and once you pass Echo Peaks, Matthes Crest will come into view. Descend a few hundred feet and head straight to the south end. It took us about 3 hours to arrive at the south end from the trailhead.
Hike for about 10 minutes uphill on the JMT until you see this trail on the left blocked by logs. Take this trail.
After 1.5 miles, cross Budd Creek over this log (now broken).
Budd Lake.
Approximate route on Matthes Crest.
The climbing starts off with 3 short pitches of easy class 5. Once you gain the ridge, you are quickly greeted with 4th class terrain. You may or may not want to remain roped in for this short section. We put our rope away as soon as we arrived on the ridge. The rest of ridge is mostly exposed 3rd class with a couple 4th/5th class moves here and there. Remaining roped in is mostly unnecessary, troublesome, and time-consuming if you are comfortable in this type of terrain.
Jacquelyn leading the start of Matthes Crest.
Me following.
Free-soloing the 4th class right after gaining the ridge.
Traversing Matthes Crest.
Some exposed ledges.
Making some occasional 4th/5th class moves.
The South & North Summit comes into view.
I'm not sure whether most people choose to climb the South Summit or not, but to save time, we skipped the South Summit and just traversed straight to the notch from the east side of the ridge. From here, I led a 5.7+ pitch on the west face up the North Summit. Honestly, I don't know what the grade was, but it wasn't easy. If anything, I might have been off route.
Me at the summit of Matthes Crest.
We made the North Summit by 2:00PM and thunderclouds were right in front of us. The forecast has been terribly inaccurate all week. It predicted "sunny and clear" and then a day before our climb, it changed to 20% chance of thunderstorms after 2:00PM. Our intention was to complete the entire Matthes Crest Traverse, but unfortunately the thunderstorms forced us to bail. It began to rain, hail, and snow on us as soon as we made our first rappel off the North Summit. After a few more rappels, lightning and thunder started.
Thunderclouds heading our way.
Rappelling off the North Summit.
The hike back to the car was long and dreadful, maybe because we did Half Dome the day before, but I was definitely tired, miserable, and wanted the day to end. We basically just retraced our steps and finally made it back to the car around 5:00PM, making it a 10 hour day car-to-car.
This is what Cathedral Peak looked like on our way back.
I mostly made the decision to attempt the complete traverse after reading descent beta from multiple sources stating that you need two 60m ropes for the rappel off the North Summit. The complete traverse would avoid rappelling as it would just be a walk off after you finish. Well, after bailing off the North Summit with only one 60m rope, I can safely say that you don't need two 60m ropes. There were already plenty of rappel anchors built at single rope lengths and if there isn't, you can just bring your own bail gear and easily build one anywhere. Why carry the extra weight for something you will barely use? The other gear we brought with us for protection included Black Diamond C4 sizes .3 to 3 and 8 alpine draws. We barely used any of it.

Overall, Matthes Crest is indeed an incredible ridge line with stunning exposure and scenery all around. If you are expecting spectacular climbing, you might be disappointed, unless of course you complete the entire traverse. After all, the best climbing is rumored to be after the North Summit. As for the approach, it's long, boring, and I hated it. I think if I were to attempt it again, I would just backpack to the Cathedral Lakes area and spend a few days bagging all the peaks around the vicinity instead of day-tripping everything.

Half Dome via Snake Dike, September 20, 2011

Yosemite's Half Dome is one of the most iconic peaks in the world as it attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. The easiest route to the summit is a 7-8 mile hike from the Happy Isles Trailhead and involves ascending metal cables for the last 400 feet. In 2010, the National Park Service implemented a permit system for Half Dome to address congestion and safety concerns on the cables. There are 400 permits available per day and are often fully reserved months in advance. Permits were only required Fri-Sun in 2010, but this year, it is now required 7 days a week. Several deaths have already occurred on Half Dome this year.
Half Dome.
Half Dome permits are now required 7 days a week.
I first completed Half Dome in 2006, before I started (or even knew anything about) rock climbing. It took me 10 hours car-to-car and it was brutal. I was astonished watching climbers carrying ropes and summitting from the other side of the dome. I could not imagine myself doing that.

Three years later, in 2009, I returned and completed Half Dome again. This time, it was via Snake Dike at night during the full moon. We decided to climb it in the dark to avoid the crowds and the heat and sure enough, we were the only ones on the wall. It took 12 hours car-to-car and it was also brutal.
Climbing Snake Dike at night during the full moon.
Earlier this week, I decided to get on Snake Dike again. This time, during the day so I can experience the exposure, scenery, and big runouts. The climb is rated 5.7 with the crux sections being friction slab climbing (moving your feet with no positive hand holds) on pitches 1 & 3. The rest of the climb is extremely runout, but very easy. Climbing Half Dome does not require a permit and after reading several trip reports stating that there were 10 people on the wall during weekdays, I was not thrilled and contemplated climbing something else instead, but we ended up doing it anyway.

We started at 7AM from Curry Village and were at the base by 10AM. The approach is approximately 6 miles long and gains ~2,500 feet. You hike past Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and right after you get to the Little Yosemite Valley Junction where the sandy trail flattens out with logs on both sides, you make a left onto a climber's trail and head towards the South Face of Half Dome. The rest of the hike isn't very obvious and it's quite easy to lose the trail. Luckily, there are plenty of cairns that may or may not mark the way. It starts off on an actual good trail heading west (left), so make sure you find it first. Stay on this trail and you will eventually hike over several fallen trees, pass Lost Lake, do some bushwhacking, climb up 3rd class slabs, and traverse exposed ledges before you arrive at the base of the climb. 
Vernal Falls.
Nevada Falls
This is where you will want to make a left turn to get on to the climber's trail.
Hiking up the slabs.
Traversing exposed ledges. Lost Lake in the background.
When we arrived at the base, there were 4 climbers already on the wall and 5 more at the base getting ready. I was not psyched at all. It appeared that we would have to wait about 2 hours before it would be our turn. There is no easy or safe way to pass people on this climb, so you're pretty much forced to wait. After 45 minutes of waiting around, I asked the party of 3 ahead of us (who were taking their time gearing up) if we could go ahead of them and they didn't have a problem as long as we run up it. 

I remembered the start of the first pitch being quite terrifying due to the 5.7 friction traverse under the roof, so this time I started left from where most people normally start. It was slightly easier and you can sling the tree for protection. After the roof, it's easy climbing to a bolted belay. If you use a 60m rope, all belay stations are bolted except for 7 & 8. 
Approximate Snake Dike Route as seen from the base.
Pitch 2 is a traverse towards the right and is fairly short from the bolted belay, but can be a little scary as there isn't very much protection and you definitely don't want to fall. Once you clip the bolt over the roof, you'll feel much better.
Pitch 2, almost at the bolt above the roof.
Most people consider pitch 3 the crux of the climb, but it wasn't as bad as I remembered. The single bolt during the 5.7 friction traverse provides much relief and once you gain the dike, you're home free. Although the remaining pitches are extremely runout, climbing the dike felt very secure and easy. It was more of a "hike" than a climb as you're mostly using your feet instead of your arms. After pitch 6, we pretty much just simul-climbed / free-soloed until we got to the 3rd class slabs, which was where we put our climbing gear away and had our hiking shoes back on. The last 1,000 feet of 3rd class slab is definitely gruesome.
Pitch 3. That single bolt provides much relief.
Jacquelyn leading pitch 4. She just clipped her first bolt where she is in this photo.
Endless 3rd class slabs after pitch 8.
Being at the summit of Half Dome was nothing new for me. I hiked it again last year as part of a backpacking trip and this became the 4th time on it. We made the summit by 2:30PM, took pictures on the Diving Board, and descended the cables. Surprisingly, there were very few people on Half Dome and the cables, so we were able to get down pretty fast. We took the shuttle from Happy Isles to Curry Village and were back to the car by 5:45PM.
Cairns at the summit of Half Dome.
Me on the Diving Board.
Looking down from sitting on the edge of the Diving Board.
Here's our approximate time log:

Curry Village: 7:00AM
Little Yosemite Valley Junction: 8:45AM
Base of Climb: 10:10AM
Starting Pitch 1: 11:00AM
Finishing Pitch 8: 1:30PM
Summit: 2:20PM
Sub-dome: 3:00PM
Curry Village: 5:45PM

Total time car-to-car: ~10:45 including 45 minutes waiting in line at the base and 30 minutes at the summit.

As for the gear we brought with us, it wasn't much. Since I already did this climb once before, I knew exactly what we needed. For protection, I only brought Metolius Ultralight Cams 2, 3, 4, and 6 alpine draws. I placed a cam during pitch 1 & 2 and didn't place anything else for the rest of the climb, mostly because you can't really place anything. If you really wanted to, you could "sport climb" the entire route.
This was the gear I brought with me.
After climbing this route twice now, I think I'm done with it. If I had climbed it during the day the first time, I'm not sure I would have returned to climb it a second time even for a full moon ascent. The nickname "Snake Hike" has become clearer than ever. 
A rainbow in front of Vernal Falls.